Poems by Karen Terrey

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Bear on I-40

by Karen Terrey

From Canary Winter 2012-13

Karen lives in Truckee, California, within sight of the Truckee River, part of the Lake Tahoe Watershed. The river runs about 120 miles from its source, Lake Tahoe, to its end in Pyramid Lake, just north of Fernley, Nevada.

A black bear hangs from arched girders
below the concrete bridge.
He knows green lichen, crashing water on
granite. He doesn’t know transparent webbing

stretched below. Men on ropes,
tied in to the bridge above, spin like spiders.
He doesn’t know physics of a net, security
of a line, skill of a knot.

Mostly, the bear knows silence,
involuntary breathing. His snout
scents humans cars buses roaring overhead.
When he leaped off the bridge

he twisted to cling a lip of structure
beneath, heavy body tightening.
After the swinging, tendons strained,
claws scraped. Now,

Lake sources still hide beneath gauzy ice.
Manzanita branches red in the dusk. Slowly
he chins up the support,

black eyes blinking.
The fall is long. The net is strung.
His thick waiting a dark mountain at night.
He doesn’t know net.

Crossing the River

by Karen Terrey

From Canary Spring 2012

After a record-breaking night,
slush flowed on top the riverís roil
like dirt specks floating across an eyeball,
tricking us into thinking something close
is far away. Ice vellum wrapped rocks along the shoreline
and air bubbles milled like field mice trapped beneath.
As close as it gets to freezing over,
each frosted branch
encased with eager light.
A panting buck on three legs by the black water line
and two fat coyotes nearby,
eyeing chickadees hopping along red willow bobbins.
Maybe he was resting
after a slow night of quiet stalking,
the coyotes trailing just close enough so he couldnít stop
through the frozen forest. It was beautiful,
how the gold of the coyotesí manes
grew thick in the sun like a resolution.
The buckís broken leg
bent beneath his chest, silent breath clouds.
Like a branch cracking beneath a stormís weight,
he rocked across the icy river,
up a low bank,
across rusted railroad tracks,
heavy rack dipping and rising.
Standing, the coyotes watched as if they had just noticed
the mule deer, then trotted along the edge. It was beautiful
how the buck kept going. How he didnít.

This poem previously appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, Winter 2011/12

Darwin Would Agree

by Karen Terrey

From Canary Spring 2013

Each soft thing emerges from the dirt
stamped by snowís weight and cool April sunshine
gentles the living to live more.
People arenít bad -
theyíre just not good at all endeavors.
But itís the multi-taskers that get eaten.
Whatís left is the starkness
of what mattered,
and intent,
roots exposed, new leaders of stem
poking up anyway like a skinny foal leaning against a mare
because thatís what life does,
even if the wood cutter
the coyote
the heart breaker
have begun their inevitable approach.

The Call

by Karen Terrey

From Canary Summer 2013

Crouch in that still meadow, narrow rush
between rising hills, open water,
small eggs in nests pursed into willows.
Strange red-tipped cranes gurgle their warning
in grass-bent sunlight.
Mid-stream, broken railroad ties
settle further a private angle
like a long marriage. Far from home,
the cranes appear as tall
as you. Stiff with caution, the pair
just dropped from their sky into this unknown refuge.
If you surprise them in the wet sedge,
stick legs bright, toes graceful -
question everything.
Among the edging pines, their calls weave,
falling through tall necks like water
sifting under the broken bridge, slow
and clear to its mucky bottom.
Love. You know how.

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